At Honest Sancho’s Used Mexican Lot, patrons can buy a farm worker, a Chicano gang member or a 19th-century bandit-revolutionary.
That’s the outrageous premise of “Los Vendidos” by Luis Valdez, one of three works being presented by Stetson University’s Second Stage Theatre under the umbrella title, “Sticking It to the Man: Three Plays that Pushed Back.” The series of one-acts, which runs Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 16-19, at Second Stage’s venue in the Museum of Art – DeLand, also includes “Dutchman” by Amiri Baraka and “Well of Horniness” by Holly Hughes.
Never mind that the satirical “Los Vendidos,” which skewers stereotypes deployed against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, was written in 1967.
“When I first read it, I was laughing hysterically,” said guest director Paris Benjamin, a Stetson alum and French-born, Los Angeles-based actor whose credits include such TV shows as “Scandal,” “NCIS” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and the film “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”
“This play (whose title is Spanish for “The Sold Ones” or “The Sellouts”) is giving you all the stereotypes that could ever exist about minorities,” Benjamin said. “It’s very funny but at the same time it was like ‘I’m not reading something about the ’60s — I’m reading about something that’s happening today.’ ”
Indeed, Second Stage’s playbill describes “Sticking It to the Man” as “three short plays whose sexy, satirical, whimsical fight for inclusivity was just right for their time – and ours!”
The works remain relevant “because we still have the same unsolved social problems and issues today,” said Ken McCoy, Ph.D., professor of Theatre Arts at Stetson.
Baraka’s “Dutchman,” which debuted in 1964, portrays the encounter of Lula, a young, flirtatious white woman, with Clay, a young, sharp-dressed, African-American man, as the two ride the subway in New York City.
“She lures him – and then she pokes and pushes him with all these stereotypes,” said guest director Michael Taylor Gray, a Los Angeles-based actor whose credits include such TV shows as “Without a Trace,” “Will & Grace” and “My Name Is Earl,” and the film “Not Easily Broken.”
Both Gray and Benjamin are in the midst of a weeks-long residency at Stetson. Along with directing and performing in the “Sticking It to the Man” plays, they also are presenting workshops on both the craft and the business side of acting.
“There’s a fine line between something fun and dangerous and something that’s threatening and over the edge,” Gray said about “Dutchman.” “When Clay finally has had enough, he’s got to speak out. People will discover when they see the play that there’s a set-up — and there are some segments of our society that feel like they’re being set up time and time again, that the moment they speak out, they get snuffed out in some way.
“Even Amiri Baraka himself said, ‘There’s no safety in words.’ People feel if I express how I feel, if I express the frustration of what’s going on, if I say my life matters, a gay life matters, black lives matter – I may pay for my life by saying that out loud. I have a transgendered cousin who’s just now starting to live an authentic life, and I worry about her every day.”
“Well of Horniness,” a 1983 play by performance artist Holly Hughes, “is a celebration of women,” said McCoy, who is directing the production. “It is very LGBTQ friendly. That’s putting it mildly.”
The wacky play is framed as if the cast members are presenting an old-time radio show.
“It’s an erotic dream, a lesbian film noir fantasia, a kind of detective fiction homage – there’s a woman-behind-bars scene,” McCoy said. “It’s a lot of clichés and stereotypes and shenanigans rolled up together and repurposed.”
The play was first staged “in the early days of AIDS,” McCoy noted. “Not exactly a gay-friendly environment in most places.”
The play was – and is — “an assertion of identity” for the LGBTQ community, he said.
— Rick de Yampert
If You Go:
Stetson’s Second Stage Theatre presents “Sticking It to the Man: Three Plays that Pushed Back” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 18, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at its venue inside the Museum of Art – DeLand, 600 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand.
Admission is $12 adults and $10 seniors and non-Stetson students; free for Stetson students, faculty and staff with valid ID. Tickets will be available at the door. For information or reservations, call the Second Stage box office at 386-822-8700. Reserved tickets must be picked up 30 minutes prior to show time.
The plays contain language and sexual situations that may not be appropriate for all patrons.